Water lost through aging and leaky infrastructure is a waste of taxpayer dollars and the valuable water resource itself. The magnitude of the problem, judging by well-documented estimates of the investment needed in water infrastructure repair and replacement, is considerable both at the national level and within the Chicago metropolitan region. Lost potable water is of particular concern in the Chicago region given the rules that govern use of Lake Michigan water and the terms of the Great Lake Compact with its emphasis on conservation and efficiency.
CMAP is working with the IDNR Office of Water Resources through its Lake Michigan Water Allocation Program to improve understanding of water loss control practices and challenges faced by community water suppliers. In the first phase of the project, CMAP partnered with the Center for Neighborhood Technology to analyze water use data for Lake Michigan Permittees (2007-12) through the use of annual water use audit reports, an online survey, and discussions with nine permittee communities. The resulting report found that 195 community water systems lost over 22 billion gallons of water in 2012, enough to provide the residential needs of over 698,000 people for one year, and 21 percent of permittees exceed the eight percent annual water loss standard set by IDNR. The project is described in the report An Assessment of Water Loss among Lake Michigan Permittees in Illinois.
Chronic or excessive water loss may indicate that a community's water allocation exceeds its need. An allocation that accommodates excessive water loss, when multiplied by numerous communities with a similar problem, could reduce the amount of water available for new allocations in the future. While Lake Michigan is not 100 percent fully allocated, the findings of Water 2050 suggest that the possibility of full allocation exists as population continues to grow and as some groundwater-dependent communities seek alternative sources for drinking water. The report identifies seven recommendations for IDNR to advance the Lake Michigan Water Allocation Program in the face of these challenges.
Beginning in water year 2016 (October 2015), community water suppliers are facing a multi-year transition period as the implementation of new IDNR rules and regulations modify how permittees account for and manage water loss. CMAP continues to work with the Lake Michigan Water Allocation Program by providing resources and assistance in meeting program requirements, updating water loss accounting tools, and establishing water rates that provide communities with sufficient funds to maintain their systems.